This week, Julie and I spent some time cleaning out the closets in the Soul Center. Finding half-used bags of flour from our challah making Braid program, consolidating markers and Sharpies from our Embracing Imperfection classes. It was like the Center was somehow frozen in time. We swept the floors and made a list of what needs replacing. And we didn’t finish, even after two hours! It felt somehow like a spiritual cleanse, holding these items we once used. Of course, we’ve been inside the Soul Center a few times during the pandemic, but this time was different. We were now cleaning and organizing with the intention that sometime soon we’ll be in The Soul Center with other people, with you. And it’s not just a cleaning out- it’s a re-set to re-start. So it’s not just out with the old, it’s in with some new.
And it made me think about how we return to things we’ve left behind. How we might return to a class we’ve taken prior to March of 2020, but taking that same class now is such a different experience. The class didn’t necessarily change; we did. We don’t always see things as they are- we see things as we are (this is a very loose extrapolation from the Talmud in Berachot 55b, but also attributed to Anais Nin).
We are now in the Hebrew month of Av. For the past few years, we’ve suggested reading Rabbi Alan Lew’s This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, his master work on the high holiday season, which according to Rabbi Lew really starts on the 9th of Av (this year it falls on July 18). This year is no different- go read it! If you already have it, time to pick it up once more. This is one of those books you can read year after year and find some new insight.
Many of us have books that we turn to again and again in our lives. Rabbi Lew’s book has become one of those for me. The words in the book are the same, but I’m not the same person I was last year, nor the year before that. I’m curious to know from you- what books do you turn back to again and again?
We are not running back into our lives as they were. We are gently walking into the future.